As expected, the WBA has officially ordered “super” featherweight champion Leo Santa Cruz to face “world” champion Leigh Wood as part of their surprisingly consistent title reduction effort. The pair have 30 days as of today (meaning until May 6th) to come to terms and avoid a purse bid.
Santa Cruz (38-2-1, 19 KO) has not actually defended his title since cruising past Rafael Rivera in February 2019. His three appearances since have seen him claim a giftwrapped super featherweight belt against unranked 126-pounder Miguel Flores, lose it to Gervonta Davis in profoundly violent fashion, then end a 15-month layoff against Keenan Carbajal.
The Carbajal fight was supposed to be at featherweight, but then it just...wasn’t for some reason.
In a roundabout way, the WBA’s refusal to do its job is what gave Wood (26-2, 16 KO) this opportunity. Then-IBF champ Josh Warrington wanted to face WBA “world” champ Xu Can, but the IBF refused to accept a unification with a secondary titlist and ordered Warrington to rematch Kid Galahad. Instead, Warrington vacated the title and prepared for Xu with what was supposed to be a stay-busy fight against Mauricio Lara.
We all know how that turned out. This left Xu to lose his belt to Wood, who went on to stop Michael Conlan last month in 2022’s current Fight of the Year frontrunner.
This is a very well-matched fight with a lot on the line for these 33-year-olds. Santa Cruz can put himself right back in the mix with a win, while Wood gets the opportunity to call himself a true world champion. Plenty of action potential, too.